Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has abandoned Paris-Nice following his crash on stage 2 to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche. The Belgian announced his withdrawal via Twitter on Tuesday morning, writing: "Paris Nice is over for me, I'm going to hospital in Belgium."
Meersman crashed in the final ten kilometres of Monday's stage, just minutes after he had picked up a time bonus that had elevated him into the virtual overall lead. He remounted and finished the stage 18 seconds down on stage winner Moreno Hofland (Belkin), but was later docked 1:10 by commissaires for drafting behind his team car and accepting hand slings from teammates as he chased back on.
"Today I underwent a few medical checks," Meersman said on his team's website. "All the medical staff at the hospital were really friendly with me. The injury is nothing to worry about. I am already at home. But of course I need to take a period of rest. In a couple of weeks I will undergo another scan to see how the situation is based on evaluations.
"It's a pity because my condition was really good. It's probably the worst crash in my life as it was also in a bad moment of the season. But, that's life. The only thing I can do now is relax, recover as fast as I can, and spend some time with my family. As soon I can, I will start training again with even more motivation than before."
Speaking on Monday evening, Omega Pharma-QuickStep team doctor Yvan Vanmol ruled out a fracture, but suggested that Meersman's injuries were such that an abandon was possible.
"There is no fracture," Vanmol said, according to Sporza. "On first assessment, Gianni is suffering from heavy bruising to his pelvis and his lower back muscles are also affected. We won’t go to hospital now and it will only be tomorrow [Tuesday] morning when we'll be able to see if he's in a state to continue."
On Tuesday morning, Omega Pharma-Quick Step directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters explained that Meersman is also suffering from a wrist injury. "Gianni's going back to Belgium to be examined further," Peeters said, according to HLN.be. "His wrist was also badly hit. We're not taking any risks so we're sending him home. The team doctor thinks the wrist isn't broken but we want to be sure. It’'s a pity we're losing Gianni, but hopefully he can resume competition quickly."
To add insult to injury, Meersman and Peeters were each fined 400 Swiss Frances by the race jury on Monday evening for "damaging the image of cycling." Meersman was also docked 20 seconds for each of two lengthy spells in the slipstream of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step car, and a further 30 seconds for a hand sling inside the final kilometre.
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